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Guide to All Grain Brewing

Views: 6     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-07-25      Origin: Site

Beer is made with water, grains, hops, and yeast. All grain brewing is the process of making beer from scratch with crushed malted grains instead of malt extracts. The real difference between extract brewing and all-grain brewing is how the fermentable sugars are acquired during the brewing process.


All grain requires some additional equipment to get started. Depending on the type of all grain system you choose, this could be as much as 3 dedicated vessels or as simple as 1. With the explosion of the brew in a bag (BIAB) method, homebrewers can actually brew all-grain with a single boil kettle and a fine mesh bag. While not as efficient as a traditional 3 vessel system, the process offers the ultimate level of simplicity and minimal cost to dive into the hobby.

Outlining the more traditional steps and equipment will better help you understand how it all works before totally simplifying it down to BIAB. I think this knowledge is really valuable foundational info to know.

A traditional all-grain system consists of 3 vessels.

  • Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)

  • Mash/Lauter Tun (MLT)

  • Boiling/Whirlpool Tun (BWT).


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Hot liquor Tank: Liquor is an industry term for the strike and sparge water used in the all-grain process. The only thing that actually comes in contact with the HLT is your brewing water. The HLT is basically a vessel used to heat your water for the mash and sparge. More on these later.

Mash/Lauter Tun: The mash tun is the most important vessel in all-grain brewing. Usually an insulated cooler or direct-fired vessel that holds your crushed grains and hot water during the conversion process. A typical mash is 1 hour at a set temperature ranging from 145°F to158°F.

Many homebrewers use a cooler with a false bottom because they do a remarkable job of maintaining heat within a degree or 2 for long durations without any external heat source. More advanced systems will use a heat source and a traditional kettle to manually or automatically maintain the mash temp. A mash tun is equipped with a mettle screen, called a false bottom, that acts as a filter to let wort through and not the grains.

Boiling/Whirlpool Tun: A vessel for boiling wort with hops. There is no difference in the boil between extract and all grain.

All Grain Brew Steps

1. Hot Water

Hot water (mash water) is heated in your HLT for use in the mash. Hot water is usually heated 10-15 degrees higher than the target mash temp because the water will cool from transferring and from grain heat absorption. You should keep note of your temp losses in your system so you can account for heat loss going forward. Adjusting on the fly, especially with a cooler mash tun can be a bit of a pain. If your target mash is too cold, you will need to add additional boiling water to bring up the temp. If your mash is too hot, you can stir the grains with the lid off to dissipate some of the heat.

2. Doughing In

Once your hot water is heated and transferred to your MLT, you can add your grains. Doughing-in is the process of slowly pouring your grains into the MLT while stirring. This should be done gradually and slowly to avoid clumps or dough balls, which will ultimately decrease the efficiency of the conversion process. Once you have fully doughed-in, give the mash a solid stir for about 30 seconds to thoroughly mix everything together. Adjust if needed, cover, and set a timer for 60 minutes. Sometimes this is easier with two people.

3. Mash (Saccharification Rest)

The mash is the process of using hot water to activate enzymes in the grain that convert the gain’s stored starches into fermentable sugars. The mash duration is called a saccharification rest, however, most brewers refer to this step as the mash or mashing. Mash temps vary depending on the style of beer you’re brewing and overall characteristics. I won’t get into the technical details, but lower mash temps yield dryer beers while higher mash temps yield sweeter beers. A typical mash temp is 152°F, as it’s right down the middle in terms of profile. A simple single infusion (single temp) mash is typically held for 60 minutes, although it can be as high as 90 minutes.

4. Lautering

When your mash has rested, it’s time for the next stage – lautering. The first part of this is what’s called “mashing out”. You don’t have to do it, but it will thin down the wort and make it easier to collect. Increase the temperature of the grain bed to 170 degrees Fahrenheit by heating the container or adding hot water. Then wait for five minutes. It’s now time for recirculation. This simply means drawing off wort from the bottom of the tun and adding it back in at the top. If you have a pump, it’s easy. If not, just use the spigot and a pitcher. Do this for 20 minutes, or until the wort is fairly clear.

5. Sparging

Sparging is the process of rinsing the grain bed with more hot water from the HLT. Sparging extracts any remaining sugars left in the mash after draining. Sparge water should target around 168°F (or higher) to maintain the grain bed temp after mashing out. Sparging comes in a few different forms and has varying levels of effectiveness, which is referred to as brewhouse efficiency.

6. Finishing Up

The rest of the process is the same as for brewing with malt extract. Remember, just as with other types of homebrewing, all grain brewing is all about experimentation! Take regular measurements throughout the process – the volume of strike and sparge water, and the temperature of your grain bed at different stages. Make a note of all this information. It will help you refine your recipes and technique over time.

7. The Boil

Once you’ve completed mashing and sparging you’re ready to begin your typical 60 minute boil as you would any extract batch. Outside of the fact that you’re boiling a larger full volume of wort (6-7 gallons), there is no real difference from this point forward. Your hop additions, chilling, and pitching should follow the standard brewing practice you know and LOVE.

Ready To Try All Grain Brewing?

We hope our overview of all grain brewing has inspired you to give it a go! There’s lots of information on every part of the process available online. And remember – this is a process that takes time and experience to perfect. Enjoy the journey!

Good luck with your next all grain homebrew. Cheers!

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